Warriors’ friendly hangs in balance

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THE Warriors friendly international against Malawi this weekend has been hit by a number of snags that threaten to stop the match from taking place. 

After calling in 17 players for the encounter set for Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre this Sunday, Warriors coach Zdravko “Loga” Logarusic has already seen a number of withdrawals from his roster.

Due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, Fifa’s new guidelines stipulate that clubs are no longer obliged to release their players for international assignments.

Macauley Bonne, who scored on his debut for his new English Championship side Queens Park Rangers (QPR) at the weekend, pulled out of the match as he is still settling in at the London-based side.

Nottingham Forest defender Tendayi Darikwa, who recently recovered from a ACL injury, has also withdrawn from the squad due to personal issues. Lyon forward Tino Kadewere, Aston Villa midfielder Marvelous Nakamba, and Bournemouth’s Jordan Zemura, who received their official call-up late due to bungling by the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa), are also not available for the trip.

For any professional player to be able to represent the national team, their club must be notified well in advance in order to make all the necessary logistical arrangements.    What has complicated matters is the fact that the local league has been inactive since March due to Covid-19 and Loga had already made it clear he will not consider home-based players for this game.

Despite the hiccups, Zifa spokesperson Xolisani Gwesela told the Daily News that Logarusic, who arrived back in Harare yesterday from his native Croatia, will have a full complement of players for Sunday’s match.

Tendayi-Darikwa

“We are confident that we can come up with a team to face the Flames. The coaches are working flat out and I’m sure by tomorrow (today) morning, we will announce the official team list that is travelling to Malawi,” Gwesela said.

It is not clear how Zifa will work around finding replacements due to the protocols that govern national team call-ups.

Zimbabwe hope to use the friendly international against Malawi as part of preparations for next month’s 2022 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Group H back-to-back qualifiers against Algeria.  The two matches should have been staged last March but were postponed after Covid-19 halted all international sport.

While the Warriors have been hit by a huge number of withdrawals, forcing Loga to look elsewhere, Flames’ coach Meck Mwase also has problems of his own.

Flames star forward Gabhadinho Mhango, who plays for Orlando Pirates in South Africa, was barred from flying out from OR Tambo International Airport on Sunday due to irregularities with his Covid-19 test certificate.

After the delay, Mhango only arrived in Blantyre yesterday and joined up with the rest of his teammates as they left for Lusaka where they play Zambia in a friendly international tomorrow.

Flames’ South Africa-based captain Limbikani Mzava and Georgia-based Fransisco Madinga all failed to honour the call-up, throwing Mwase’s plans out of the window.

“I would have really loved to have the two in the squad to see how they fit in as we prepare for Burkina Faso. They really wanted to be part of the squad, but circumstances have forced them not to avail themselves,” Mwase said before the Flames left for Lusaka yesterday.

With the Malawi top flight league only commencing on November 17 after it was postponed due to Covid-19, Mwase is also disappointed with the condition of his local based players.

“The period for preparations was rather short for players who have been out of action for about eight months.  But I am happy that within the short period, they gave out something extra and I would say the level of commitment and fighting spirit were impressive.”

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